Monday, April 14, 2008

What's in your fridge?

I was going to write about how the Britsh papers are aghast that Hooters is planning to open up a bunch of new restaurants here ("It's more like a strip club than a restaurant") but another newspaper story commenting on America caught my eye. When we were looking at apartments to rent, we noticed that the British don't do big refrigerators. In fact, in many houses, they don't even do medium fridges. I've seen bigger ones in college dorm rooms. Part of it has to do with Victorian-age homes whose kitchens weren't designed with mammoth appliances in mind, let alone doors and hallways that are impossible for such behemoths to pass through. Part of it stems from the more European way of eating fresh--you only need a day or two of food in your fridge. In any case, the fridge disparity hasn't been lost on the Brits--many have fridge-envy if you can believe this story about how long to store stuff in your fridge.

Twenty years ago, we didn't really think about fridges. They were usually small and cupboard-like. They smelled a bit. They had a "freezer compartment" - often a solid berg of frost into which was set a broken ice-tray and a rogue oven chip - and they made that reassuring "thunkety humm" noise at odd intervals throughout the night.

Then the Americans arrived. We had already glimpsed them in imported sitcoms: vast, cavernous hangars of fridges with wide-spaced, well-lit shelves, groaning with Budweiser, leftover Chinese food in bucket-shaped boxes and orange juice that was drunk as profligately as squash. Over-stuffed and then, all at once, over here.

Demand rose and manufacturers such as Samsung and Maytag lunged at the opportunity, introducing new "American-style" fridges. That word "style" is important.
Consumer research showed we wanted fridges that were taller than us - but our kitchens, units and even doors couldn't cope with the size of imported models so slightly smaller versions were made for the UK market.

According to market research group, Mintel, sales of "larder" fridges - tall, with no icebox - or the even more bloated "side-by-side" type with adjacent freezer wing, have entirely outstripped sales of under-the-counter models. A fact borne out by the presence of an entire section dedicated to "American-style" fridges on the John Lewis website.

Oh, if you were wondering how to drink a squash, that reference is to the concentrated fruit juice that one mixes with water or soda. That form of squash is very popular in the UK and other countries.

--jt

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